Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Favorite YA Books from High School

When I was in high school, I remember visiting the local bookstore with its smallish YA section that was overshadowed by children’s books. In the past decade that section has grown and transformed, surpassing my wildest expectations for the genre that I love. When I think back, there are some books from the early 2000s that stick out. They existed in that smallish section and are wonderful and worthy, even though they aren’t on the shelves of most bookstores now. These books existed before vampires sparkled, before Katniss volunteered, before Tris chose Dauntless and before Hazel Grace Lancaster met Augustus Waters.

Here’s my favorite YA books from when I was in high school, over a decade ago.

The Princess Diaries series—Meg Cabot
Published starting September 2000
Finding out you’re secretly a princess is every girl’s fantasy, right? The Princess Diaries series mixed every girl’s fantasy with every girl’s normal high school experience. It managed to be relatable—if we weren’t awkward, lanky or bad at math like Mia then we certainly had a friend who was. Plus, Michael?! Pretty sure Mia and Michael were my first ship (closely followed by Ron and Hermione).


The Seer and the Sword—Victoria Hanley
Published October 2000
My fascination with fantasy began with this novel. When Princess Torina’s father, the King, returns home from conquering a neighboring kingdom, he gives her the boy who would have been king. Instead of keeping him as a slave, Torina releases Landon, and they grow up together as friends. But when a villain plots to overthrow Torina’s father, the peaceful kingdom is thrown into chaos. This novel was intricately planned and crafted, plus it had assassins, secret identities, a coveted sword and a prophetic crystal. I STILL remember its gasp-worthy reveals and heart-stopping twists.

Violet Eyes—Nicole Luiken
Published January 2001
This novel was dystopian before I knew to call it dystopia. Angel and Michael are in a historical immersion program, so even though it’s year 2098 (and the world is vastly imperfect), they are in a town simulating 1987. Except that Angel’s never been outside the program and everyone else seemingly has. So why is she different? Why was she raised in 1987, when the rest of the world is living in 2098? This was an action-adventure, with powerful connections and cringe-worthy surprises.


Circle of Magic series—Tamora Pierce
Published starting July 1997
Four mages-in-training come together in this series, with each Sandry, Briar, Daja and Tris (yes, TRIS) headlining their own book. They are misfits, some with turbulent pasts and all struggling to control their powers. This series was classic high fantasy riddled with different kinds of magic, but what made it special was the strength of the quartet’s friendship, even though they were startlingly different.

I normally don’t have too much time for re-reading, but I need to revisit each of these as soon as readerly possible. Oh, nostalgia.

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